Meet Our Director: Dan Richards

Meet Dan Richards, the founder of A+C and one of our directors! Growing up in Kent, Dan set up his studio here in Margate where he has over the past 20 years been making and directing commercial stop-motion content. Training in Bristol at Aardman’s Academy, Dan went on to work on model making of Wallace & Gromit’s: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. On completion he returned to Kent to produce his directorial debut, Windmill Boy, which he created out of his garden shed!

Dan went on to work with schools, leading animation projects with numerous students before opening his studios in Whitstable in 2007. From there, the studio grew healthily until it relocated to Margate in 2014. Now with a full in-house production facility, including 3 studios, six stages and state of the art post production suites, A+C is ever evolving and perfectly placed to nurture new talent. 

As well as continuing to work for leading brands on their commercials and content, Dan is excited to be working on the first A+C longform IP productions and potential studio expansion – there is a lot to look forward to! Here we will dive a little deeper into his inspirations and aspirations in this interview.

What inspired you to get into animation, and how did you get started in the industry?

As a kid I loved to watch Ray Harryhausen’s films, Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. The way he brings to life the creatures and monster is incredible. As a young child I knew these creatures weren’t real but could understand what they were and that enthralled me.

Meet Dan Richards
How do you approach storytelling in your work, and what are some of the key elements that you think make a story successful?

I try to put myself in the eye of the audience. I like to make sure plot points register. The journey to the animation’s climax or finale needs to pull the audience in. So it’s important when the rug-pull or reveal happens it hits hard. This only works if all the beats leading up to the ending are hoovered up along the way, gathering pace, anticipation and excitement.

What do you think is the most crucial quality for a director to have, and how do you cultivate that quality in yourself?

Communication. Communicating with the crew is vital as they are the hands that make a stop-motion film. From the storyboards to animating the puppets, they bring the film to life. Making sure they buy into the vision and understand it is imperative, whilst ensuring there is space for them to add their craft to the project.

Dan Richards
What role do you see animation playing in contemporary culture, and how do you hope to contribute to that conversation with your work?

Animation is a technique of moving image, like documentary filmmaking. It’s a storytelling tool which uses puppets and characters to take an audience on a journey. Animation is one , if not the first, form of culture you interact with as a child. It should be considered more in more contemporary uses for adult filmmaking. 

"Animation is one , if not the first, form of culture you interact with as a child. It should be considered more in more contemporary uses for adult filmmaking."
How do you balance the desire to create something new and innovative with the need to appeal to a wider audience?

Every year audiences grow more sophisticated; challenging directors/animators to innovate and amaze in different ways. It’s like a magician coming up with new tricks and acts. How can we push the boundaries of stop-motion animation, a technique as old as the birth of film with new digital technologies and tools. New challenges are always exciting. A little scary as it’s something you’ve not done before, but faith in the team around you to work through the process and problem solving keeps you curious and passionate to succeed. 

How do you balance the demands of a commercial project with your own artistic integrity and vision?

I like to think I’m very good at sitting on the fence and staying impartial. On one hand you have the brand/agency and on the other you have your vision and your creative reputation. Of course, no one wants to do ‘bad work’ and I’m happy to disagree with something I think compromises the studios work, but I do understand the client has a better understanding of the brand and their audience. When I was a young director I found this a lot harder, but finding a happy medium of collaborating and taking onboard other opinions is a crucial part of commercial production.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as an animation director, based on your own experiences and lessons learned?

Keep making stuff… 

I say ‘stuff’ because not everyone can make a fully formed animated film. ‘Stuff’ means writing scripts, designing characters, storyboarding, testing animations. Ideas come from anywhere, but creation comes from within. Blending the two is what directors need to be experimenting with and producing. Pick up the sketch/notebook and just keep letting your creativity splurge on the page.

Do you have any dream projects you would wish to do in the future?

This past year has been super exciting for my own projects. I’ve been able to create three pre-school stop-motion show bibles. We’ve also been approached by an entertainment company as a production partner for another show, so I’ve been able to work on a lot of my own ideas and characters. Hopefully you’ll get to see some of them come to life in the not so distant future! Keep your eyes peeled!

Here is Dan’s very first animation – conceived, directed and shot in his garden shed back in 2003. Windmill Boy was lovingly created over 18 months and this piece was Dan’s first foray into the world of stop motion directing. With a little help from Canterbury college, he borrowed equipment and extra pairs of hands to embark on his directorial debut. We still have some of the models here in the studio in Margate, fond reminders of humble beginnings.


Grab a cuppa and find out more about Dan here

View Dan's Work